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Open source rocks

Rock Climber

As a rock climber I find myself buying quite a few guide books. Why? They allow me to arrive at a cliff I’ve never seen before, yet have the information to orient myself, and very quickly and easily find myself climbing a route, which is at the difficulty I desire, with the benefit of the knowledge of those who have climbed it before.

Guide books contain specialised information, often collated from a number of collaborators. It is high stakes information, evidenced by the obligatory disclaimer in the front of most modern guides, ‘Use our information at your own risk’. Guide books inevitably serve only a small market and can be remarkably expensive.

Why is this relevant?

Leading up to a recent climbing trip to Tasmania I was searching for guide books and came across thesarvo.com, an online climbing guide to Tasmania.

This wondeful site explains itself:

Basically the position of this guide is that climbing information belongs principally to the climbing community, and that the more freely available it is the better. The most convenient form for distributing information is the web – so all these guide are made freely available on the web.

thesarvo.com is written by the community, for the community. A beautiful example of open source publishing. The site is based on a wiki platform and is licensed under a Creative Commons attribution – share alike licence, allowing users to freely (and legally) copy, transmit or adapt the information providing they attribute the source. Wow!

What is even better is that their (or should I say, our) guide is of a very high quality, the result of community ownership and rigourous, meaningful peer review.

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